Why Windshield Cracks are Worse in Winter
Photo of a cracked windshield in winter weather
Windshield chips can often be repaired, and it doesn’t cost much. But if a chip turns into a large crack, you may end up paying for a new windshield. And windshield damage is more likely to get worse during the extreme temperatures of the winter months, so it’s even more important this time of year to repair chips as soon as they happen.
A chip that interferes with driver visibility carries its own dangers, but any windshield damage can be literally life-threatening in certain situations. This is because a windshield provides as much as 60 percent of a vehicle’s structural strength during a roll-over, so any weakness in the glass can increase the odds of injury or death. (Rollovers cause more than 30 percent of all collision fatalities.)
Cold weather is hard on automotive glass
When a windshield gets cold, it contracts in a very specific way, becoming slightly more curved. When glass is “over-bent” in this way, it’s much more likely to break, so winter temperatures definitely add significant stress to any damaged areas. This makes them more likely to spread—a lot more likely. At 32 degrees, that chip is 60% more likely to grow than during temperate months, and at 14 degrees, the odds nearly double.
Okay, now add in the fact that you’ll probably turn the defroster on at these temperatures, and the odds go up even more. This is because cold air is hitting the outside of the glass and warm air is hitting it inside, which further increases the stress.
How big can a chip get and still be repaired?
The short answer is, “not very big.” Here’s a rundown of the types of windshield damage that can usually be repaired:
- Rock chips as large as a quarter
- Small crack/chip combinations
- Pits and dings
- Smaller star-shaped cracks
- Bulls eyes (circular or semicircular chips)
Photo of six types of auto glass damage that can be repaired including windshield bulls eyes, chips, dings, pits, rock chips and star breaks.
What types of windshield damage can’t be repaired?
To understand why some windshield damage can’t be repaired, we need to understand how it’s done. Technicians start by cleaning the damaged area. (If the chip has too much dirt in it, it may be non-repairable—another reason to take care of it quickly, before it fills in with dirt!) Next they place a precision vacuum mold over the chip. This device forms a flat upper surface that matches the surface of the windshield. Under this mold, the chip is then depressurized and filled with a plastic resin that matches the optics of auto safety glass. Because of the small size of the vacuum tool and the strength limitations of the resin, chips can’t be very big. Here’s a rundown of the types of damage we can’t repair:
Photo of four types of auto glass damage that cannot be repaired including severe damage, edge damage, long cracks and multiple cracks on a windshield.
Photo of a vaccum windshield repair tool affixed to a windshield. The tool has a vacuum line connected to it.
Don’t put it off
Nobody wants to spend money unnecessarily, but when your windshield is chipped, you’re actually saving money by taking care of it before it gets worse. A new windshield can cost hundreds of dollars, while a repair is usually around fifty dollars. And in the winter, time is not on your side, so it’s especially important to deal with this problem promptly. Give us a call at 316-262-8888 or stop by the shop at 1100 S. Washington in Wichita. We’ll give you a great deal.